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Crop Biotech Update

Wheat Genome Assembly Now Complete

November 15, 2017

The wheat genome is both colossal and complex, more than five times the size of the human genome, and has been an immense puzzle to scientists for decades. After 10 years of large scale, international research, a group of scientists has finally assembled the wheat genome to its most complete and contiguous state.

Assembling the genome took a total computer processing time equivalent to 53.7 years across just over five months of elapsed time. Because of its hexaploid structure, the genome for common bread wheat, Triticum aestivum, has ‘one of the most complex genome sequences known to science', according to the paper, published on October 23, 2017.

T. aestivum has 6 copies of each chromosome, enormous numbers of near-identical sequences scattered throughout, and an overall haploid size of more than 15 billion bases. The final assembly contains 15,344,693,583 bases and has a weighted average (N50) contig size of 232,659 bases. This represents by far the most complete and contiguous assembly of the wheat genome to date, providing a strong foundation for future genetic studies of this important food crop.

For more details, read the news release at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council website, or download the open-access article "The first near-complete assembly of the hexaploid bread wheat genome, Triticum aestivum" in Giga Science.